‘At my worst I took 75 Codeine tablets a day’

Lindsay Quigley.
Lindsay Quigley.
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A Derry woman has spoken for the first time about her addiction to painkillers which saw her taking almost 75 codeine tablets every day.

On September 7, 2015, Lyndsey Quigley took her last ever codeine tablet marking the end of five years of addiction to the very high strength pain killer.

Lyndsey told the ‘Journal’ that she’d go to any lengths to get her hands on the drug which cannot be purchased over the counter, and admitted she even bought people’s prescriptions off them.

She’s now speaking out to let people know how one innocent mistake by her led to years of addiction.

“On Wednesday I was off them a year,” said Lindsay. “It all started so innocently. I just hope someone reads my story and it makes them think twice.”

The 39-year-old revealed how she started taking co-codamol ‘30-500’ tablets five years ago when she suffered from gall bladder problems.

“I got them for a genuine enough reason,” she said. “And at the beginning there was no problem. I took one at a time, then two when it got worse. But one night I took two, went to the toilet, forgot I had taken them and took another two. I started to feel numb and woozy. And I thought ‘God Almighty,’ this is relaxing.”

It was when Lindsay’s brother, Bill Quigley, died from leukaemia the addiction spiralled out of control.

“I started taking four at a time; then five at a time. Then it went up to me taking 15 at a time, four or five times a day,” she recalled.

“I was buying them off people. I was talking to people you would otherwise avoid. I starting hanging around in the wrong circles. Once I rang up the doctor and pretended to be my sister, just to get them.”

When her younger brother found out about her addiction, Lindsay decided to come clean to her parents.

“I just got fed up lying to people,” she said. “For years I had just gone to work and gone home to bed. I never went out because I had that guilt and I knew I was doing something I shouldn’t be. I knew I was doing damage to my liver.

“I was taking between 60 and 75 codeine tablets a day, and you are only supposed to be taking between six and eight.

“My doctor had stopped giving them to me a long time ago so I was buying them off people. People are getting them on prescription to get their DLA but never using them. You can get your hands on whatever you want. I went for counselling once and was told that prescription drugs were as bad in Derry as alcoholism. And it’s very common in women.

“For me having this problem was mortifying. To look at me I was a normal person, but I was living with this awful problem and I didn’t know what to do. I only got through it because of the support of my family.

“When I told my daddy, they told me they would get me help. The next day we phoned everywhere but nowhere could take me unless I was already off them. I couldn’t understand it.

“My parents and my sisters were amazing. I had the support that maybe a lot of people wouldn’t have. They stayed with me in those first few weeks. I was never left on my own. I am so lucky I had them. But I can’t forgive myself for what I put my family through.”

Lindsay revealed how she was advised by medics to cut down on codeine gradually, however, she decided to go cold turkey and managed to stay off them using anti-sickness tablets.

“I haven’t looked back, thank God,” she said. “The withdrawal was awful. I couldn’t eat or sleep. I had awful vomiting and sickness. My blood and liver tests have all come back normal. I think only for the fact that I wasn’t drinking when I was taking them I haven’t done any damage.

“I just want people to know that these tablets are addictive. You may be given some for an operation and you might not take it on, but they are addictive.

“I’m excited that I have been off them a year and I feel I have something to celebrate. But I still feel so guilty. My parents tell me to be proud that I got off them. I just want people to ask for help if they need it. I will talk to anyone who is worried. I want to help. If someone read this and thought twice about taking the tablets for pain, it would be worth it.”

Lindsay said she is happy to talk to anyone who is worried about painkiller misuse. You can contact her on Lindsayquigley@hotmail.com